A worked out example is a sequential process of the methodology of performing a task or solving a problem. It teaches the learner to be a self-sufficient problem-solver and tells them how to apply a set of analytical skills to any given problem instead of just plugging in possible answers to a particular problem until the correct answer is found. Worked-out examples form the difference between solving a single problem and becoming an efficient problem-solver in any situation.
Worked out examples are most effective when teaching a subject with clear-cut rules and empirical answers, such as mathematics. Most research has used the problems of mathematics and science as instructional content because the high structure of such problems makes for a sequential process of learning.
Worked out examples are powerful in building knowledge in long-term memory. Learners often prefer worked-out examples in verbal description. The most effective way to acquire a skill is to present an example, than a similar problem to solve the next problem. These are placed at the beginning of a lesson to show the learner the steps involved while solving a particular type of problem.
Forms of worked out examples include:
- Problem solutions: Solving the problem showing each step in the process.
- Animated demonstrations: Showing steps using animations, a great e-learning tool.
- Textual descriptions: Description of the solution in text form.
- Video-taped expert demonstrations: Demonstrating the solution in a video simulation.
- Representations of thoughts of expert performers: Representing the skills and knowledge of an expert so that learning can be made easy.
Worked out examples are proven to be the most effective way of learning during the initial stage of learning as the learner can gain more knowledge.